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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/812

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

same idea manifested itself relative to all the women he met, provided they were pretty. He was obliged to have a person follow him, whose duty it was to satisfy him on this point. Every time he met a woman he repeated the eternal question, "Is she pretty?" The attendant would answer "No," and that would cut short the otherwise interminable series of his questions. One day he was starting by railroad for a distant point, and in his hurry forgot to begin his observations on the woman who sold the tickets, and also to ask if she was pretty. When he reached his destination, in the middle of the night, he asked his companion if that woman was pretty. The companion, being for once worried, tired, or forgetful, answered that he had not looked at her, and did not know anything about it. This was enough to cast the patient into such a condition of anxiety that he had to start back immediately for Paris to assure himself as to the truth in the matter!

If I have been able to give a general idea of this curious mental disorder, it will be agreed that, amid all its diversities, it is essentially characterized by a kind of cerebral pruriency which nothing can satisfy, and that the repetition of the same acts, the same questions, and the same thoughts, appertains to an organic phenomenon which brings up unceasingly the same impressions. In a similiar way we contend with ourselves laboriously, while dreaming, in a situation we can not bring ourselves out of, because the incessant repetition of the same physical impressions reproduces the same series of ideas. We are not finally delivered from this obsession till we wake.

The doubting folly is hard to cure, but considerable periods of remission sometimes occur, during which the patient seems to be restored to his normal condition. Unfortunately, the amelioration is seldom permanent. The brain falls back into its old habits, and the delirium begins over again. Patients who are attacked by it at the period of puberty have a better chance of recovering than others, for the progressive evolution of the organism may bring them relief from this psychologic condition. On the other side, the malady hardly ever ends in insanity. The subjects, when they have reached the last stage of their malady, remain fixed in their delirium. Incompetent for all work, sad and morose, they retire from society and live in voluntary sequestration. The prognostic is therefore extremely grave, for in the great majority of cases the future is definitely lost, whatever remissions of longer or shorter duration may give birth to slightly founded hopes.

The causes of the doubting folly are quite numerous. Heredity must be placed in the first rank; then comes puberty, which impresses a peculiar stamp on the psychoses that are brought under its influence. Sexual and intellectual excesses may also be included among the causes. Women are supposed to be more subject to the aberration than men. The disease is sometimes developed during convalescence from grave sickness. A certain part in producing it is attributed to moral per-